Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: For Lamb by Lesa Cline-Ransome

  • For Lamb
  • by Lesa Cline-Ransome
  • Publisher: Holiday House
  • Release date: January 10, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780823450152

Lamb Clark doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about all the things she cannot change in Jackson, Mississippi. Her mom, Marion, does, though.  All her life, Lamb has heard her mother demanding strength of Lamb and her older brother, Simeon.  Hardship and keeping out of the way of white folks is just a way of life, and keeping one’s head down when white mobs go on a lynching rampage is a matter of life and death for the Clarks. That’s why Lamb’s forbidden friendship with Dr. Tremper’s daughter, Marny, is dangerous. Lamb and Marny share a love of reading, a parent who is not in the picture, and older brothers who try to parent the girls. Their difference is that while Lamb’s brother, Simeon, could be accused of and lynched for taking liberties with a white woman, Marny’s brother, George, can assault Lamb and then bring a mob calling for “justice” when Simeon retaliates. 

Cline-Ransome uses multiple perspectives–each with a unique voice–to bring readers into the violence of 1940s Mississippi. Like Emmett Till’s mother who insisted on an open casket, Cline-Ransome lays bare the brutal ugliness of a time period of history in which citizens of our country were treated with savage indifference and gross injustice. The plot is compelling. Lamb’s fears of what others will think of her, her aggravation with a mother who doesn’t seem to understand her, and the longing for a relationship with her father are universally recognizable, making the terror with which she lives daily all the more palpable. The conclusion is breathtakingly painful, and yet Cline-Ransome manages to end the story on a note of hope.

This is a book for teens who connect with characters empathetically. It will be especially appreciated by those who want to understand how historical traumas inform current events. Readers who connected with Liselle Sambury’s Delicious Monsters, Angeline Boulley’s Warrior Girl Unearthed, or Ruchira Gupta’s I Kick and I Fly will also find this an unforgettable story.

-Jodi Kruse

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: September 26, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.